I arrived home about 8 PM on Thursday evening and spent most of Friday morning responding to emails/phone calls and catching up on some work that afternoon. Saturday morning I was a speaker at the Tennessee Valley Republican Club’s monthly meeting in Madison. I always enjoy visiting with this great group of Patriots and listening to their ideas and concerns regarding local, state and national politics.
We wrapped up Thursday, day 3 in the Senate, around 1 PM. After clearing up some administrative items in the office I headed home about 2 PM and drove straight to the Huntsville City School Board Meeting that started at 5:30PM. I wanted to attend the meeting because they were scheduled to discuss the 2013 – 2014 Calendar. I was able to participate in the calendar discussion and in awarding a Resolution from the Alabama Senate and House with Rep Howard Sanderford to Superintendent Casey Wardensky for having been selected as Superintendant of the Year. The highlight - and surprise of the evening was a presentation on the turn-around occurring over the last year at Westlawn Middle School. This is a great example of the enabling flexibility we are seeking through SB54 and HB84 and what can be accomplished in our schools. Yes, this turn-around was done under current laws, but just imagine what else schools can accomplish! My congratulations to the students, teachers, principal and my thanks to the BOE and Dr Wardensky for their leadership, enabling and trusting those who know best how to educate these students.
Speaking of School Calendars, Madison County Schools has published two calendars for the 2013 – 2014 school year; one following the current law imposed in 2012 and another reflecting what the calendar could look like should the “opt-out” bill (SB9) pass the Alabama Legislature this year. I’ve asked every school system across the state to do this so that the public can clearly see the difference between local systems having the ability to set the school calendar as opposed to following the restrictive law passed in 2012. Please contact your school system board of education and ask them to follow suit – then contact your legislator and ask them to support SB9, allowing local school boards to opt-out of the mandated state-wide school calendar.
The Local Control School Flexibility Act - SB54 and HB84 Update: HB84 was voted on and passed committee on Wednesday. SB54 is scheduled for a vote this Wednesday. Both bills have amendments pending. I will provide links to the amended versions of these bills once they become available. I appreciate those who have contacted me regarding concerns with SB54. Having reviewed the concerns identified in the bill from the perspective of those contacting me, I am able to address them - specifically protecting tenure for current and future employees as well as the pay scale for future and current employees - with amendments. It was never our intent to impact these areas and I value your input as we work to refine the legislation.
I also realize that no matter what we do, some will continue to claim we are not doing enough or that this is a back-door way to charter schools. Think about it this way - SB54 establishes a formal process for a local school system to point to an existing law, policy or regulation and request to be exempt from that law for a period of up to five years in return for increased academic achievements. I’m sure everyone recalls that a significant amount of time was spent during the 2012 session to pass laws enabling charter schools; we were unsuccessful in those efforts. My point – if SB54 is some sort of backdoor way to charter schools, exactly what law will a school system request to be exempt from considering a law does not exist enabling charter schools?
My focus will continue to be providing Alabama’s 134 public school systems with the freedom to address their respective issues at the local level, enabling local systems to think outside of the box, seek innovate and flexible ways to improve education, improve student outcomes, and maximize use of available resources.
The Senate returns to session on Tuesday morning and I predict a busy week. Tonight I will attend the annual “Medi-Gra” with my wife, benefiting the Madison Hospital. For now I’m going to get outside and enjoy what is left of this sunny Saturday afternoon and hope you are doing the same.
Semper Fi - Bill